Change Catalyst with Shanna Mann: Strategy & Support for Sane Self-Employment

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The Issue of Legitimacy

One of the hardest battles an entrepreneur can face is with their own sense of legitimacy.

We put a priority on external indicators of legitimacy; your grades, your degrees, the places you’ve worked and the people you know.

Without these indicators, it can be incredibly hard to stand up and own your own strengths and expertise. We so value authority that we won’t even take it upon ourselves to say, “Yup. I’m the person for that.”

And that’s not altogether a bad thing. If anything, it indicates a certain self-awareness. After all, the only thing worse than utter ignorance would be the Dunning-Kruger effect.

But when you’re an entrepreneur, especially one who’s breaking trail in this new territory of digital economy, there’s nobody around to offer authority. You’re a traveler in bandit country. You can’t afford to be wishy-washy or squeamish.

Best Thing About Entrepreneurialism — It’s Not Fatal

Luckily, unlike bandit country, mistakes won’t kill you. And there are lots of people to learn from (although be careful there. Some don’t know what they’re talking about and others don’t have your best interests at heart). But you learn fast when you’re playing for keeps, so the best thing you can do is keep trying, and if necessary keep screwing up.

It can be scary. Actually, if you’re even half-assed honest with yourself, the looming mountain of stuff you don’t know shit about is enough to give you cold sweats. So how can you be expected to toot your horn about what you do know? Surely that’s only going to highlight your ignorance?

Well, yes, and no. The truth is, like Dr. Spock wrote in his famous book: Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do. I applaud your intellectual integrity by remaining mindful of what you don’t know, but there will always be a vast expanse of things you don’t know. Get used to it.

Instead, focus your efforts on getting the most use out of the things you do know.

In other words, take what you know, and help someone with it. The more you help, the more you’ll know what you know, what you do, and who you can best serve.

In other words, take what you know, and help someone with it. The more you help, the more you’ll know what you know, what you do, and who you can best serve.

When I was writing my first book, I told my coach, “I don’t know if I want to publish it. There’s some stuff I haven’t been able to express right, yet. Maybe I should wait until I know more. I’ll be in a different place, and I’ll have a better perspective to teach from.”

Erin is nothing if not forthright. “So what?” she said. “When you know more, write another book.”

“But what if I get some stuff wrong?”

“Then you’ll fix it in another book. Meanwhile, the people who can be helped with this one, will be.”


The Bottom Line

In my experience, legitimacy isn’t just something you decide. I mean, it’s useful to reason your way to assuring yourself that you have no reason not to feel legitimate, but until the heart’s on board, it doesn’t really stick.

So I’m trying to give you advice on how to bridge that chasm.

Help people. Take what you know, who you are, and what you do, and help people. Sometimes your skills are not what you thought they were, sometimes people’s problems are not what you thought they were. But if you ignore all the determinings and labels about “what you do” and “how you can help” and just focus on solving problems for people, you’ll be left with two very powerful pieces of information.

A) You will know what problems people need to solve.

B) You will know that you can help them solve them.

Effectiveness is the ultimate legitimacy.

Have you struggled with legitimacy issues? How did you solve them?